Fire extinguisher made for space works by sucking in flames

Brittany A. Roston - Apr 22, 2019, 3:07 pm CDT
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Fire extinguisher made for space works by sucking in flames

Increasing human activity in space will result in unique situations and open the door for new related innovations. Fire-related accidents are one example of potential space-related issues and researchers with Toyohashi University of Technology in Japan are here with a solution. The team’s new fire extinguisher works in reverse, sucking in flames rather than blowing them out.

Enclosed spaces like deep sea vessels and spacecraft present unique issues that make traditional fire extinguishers unsuitable. Fires in these environments are particularly problematic and a special type of extinguisher that blasts CO2 is used in the place of traditional alternatives.

CO2 fire extinguishers come with some big downsides, including the need to wear oxygen masks during use and the potential for blasting both CO2 and harmful fire-related fumes through the limited interior cabin space. The need to put on oxygen masks before using a CO2 fire extinguisher slows down responses to a fire, giving it time to potentially cause more damage.

Beyond those issues, CO2 and other harmful gases must be filtered out of the enclosed area, a process that takes a considerable amount of time. A new concept called Vacuum Extinguish Method (VEM) eliminates these problems by sucking in the flames and related toxic fumes.

The fire source, flames, fumes, and any materials produced by the fire are pulled into the extinguisher by vacuum. A vacuum chamber conceals the problematic elements from the surrounding area and can be directly purged outside of the interior cabin space. Using this method, the vessel’s filters won’t be taxed by the fumes, operators don’t need to put on oxygen masks, and there’s no related delay in dealing with the fire.

VEM exists as a successfully tested concept at this time; it’s unclear whether any space agencies plan to utilize the technology in the future.


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